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New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

PRESS RELEASE

December 16, 2002

 SDE Releases Results of Even Start Family Literacy Initiative

(Santa Fe, NM)-The New Mexico State Department of Education (SDE) announced today that 65 percent of parents participating in the New Mexico Even Start Family Literacy Initiative are better prepared to assist their children with developing literacy readiness skills and 71 percent now use literacy readiness activities with their children.

"The New Mexico family literacy initiative is offering families in poverty the opportunity to improve their fundamental well being. It is proving that we can help to reverse the cycle of low achievement that can impact families for generations," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis.

The Legislature provided $2 million in funding for fiscal year 2002 to implement family literacy services to address the needs of at-risk families. The program, implemented in 14 public school districts, focuses on improving literacy skills for preschool children and their parents.

Services are provided at program sites and in homes, with parents averaging 10 hours of participation each week. Four essential components are integrated into the program:

  • Early childhood education to increase the developmental skills of preschool children and better prepare them for academic success in school
  • Parenting education so parents can learn how to be the primary teacher for their child and full partners in their child's education
  • Parent and child literacy time so that parents practice with a role model how to conduct parent and child literacy time together
  • Adult education to help parents gain the motivation, skills and knowledge needed to become employed or to pursue further education or training.

In all, 5,675 family members are being served at 33 sites at a cost of $352 per family member. Qualified families meet three of five risk factors pertinent to a child's early literacy success in school: single parent, welfare recipient, unemployed and out of school, teenage parent with a preschool-age child and lacking a high school diploma.

Forty-seven percent of participants are Native American, 37 percent are Hispanic and 14 percent are Anglo, followed by .05 percent Asian, .05 percent Black and 1 percent "other." Families average five members in the immediate household, including older and younger siblings and grandparents.

As a result of the program, 65 percent of parents:

  • Provide reading and writing materials in the home.
  • Use more oral language in the home with familiar activities.
  • Spend increased time talking with their children, building language.
  • Serve as a role model in regular use of reading and writing.
  • Understand how to use effective coping strategies to ensure good physical and mental health for both parent and child.
Among the literacy readiness activities being used by 71 percent of parents are repeating nursery rhymes or singing songs, recognizing colors and shapes, writing a name, counting things and recognizing letters and numbers.

More than 25 percent of New Mexico's families live in poverty, including, in 2000, 508,574 children, according to the 2002 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book published by New Mexico Voices for Children. In addition, 54 percent of families in 2002 headed by a single mother with children under the age of five were poor.

"With funding of $3 million each year for the next five years, the New Mexico family literacy initiative could reach more than two-thirds of all families living in poverty," said Georgene Zaydell, the SDE's Even Start program consultant.

Participating districts are: Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Bloomfield, Central Consolidated, Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces, Los Lunas, Lovington, Magdalena, Mountainair, Taos, Wagon Mound and West Las Vegas.